The Case for Smart Grid

Funding a new infrastructure in an age of uncertainty.

The world’s electricity supply will need to triple by 2050 to keep up with demand. What follows is a look at where we are, and what may lie ahead, with a focus on the the scope of the problem, regulatory reform initiatives now underway, and how to go about rethinking the business models that might evolve.

Microgrids: Friend or Foe for Utilities?

For many, it’s the next logical step for smart grid technology.

A small, but growing, number of utilities are embracing these technologies. Microgrids offer a networking platform that the utility can both aggregate and optimize.

Frequency Regulation

In a recent order, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) said that by paying the wrong price for the ancillary service known as frequency “regulation,” system operators have encouraged too many gas-fired turbines and other conventional fossil power plants to supply regulation service.

Putting market economics ahead of reliability, the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has told regional transmission organizations (RTOs) and other grid system operators (ISOs) to rethink the prices they pay for the ancillary service known as frequency “regulation.”

In short, FERC wants all power plants to do what they do best — recognizing that some may be well adapted to providing regulation service, but others perhaps not.

Battle Lines:

2011 Groundbreaking Law & Lawyers Survey and Report

With a flurry of major new environmental regulations, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is altering the power generation landscape. But will the new federal rules survive court challenges—to say nothing of next year’s national elections? Fortnightly's Michael T. Burr considers the controversy over new environmental standards. PLUS: Top Utility Lawyers of 2011.

Grid 2050

Shaping system transformation.

New technologies—and new expectations—require taking a fresh look at the institutions and practices that have provided reliable electricity for the past century. Collective action is needed to define the key attributes of a future grid and then to take the more difficult next step—adapting our processes and institutions to align with that future vision. A thoughtful approach will allow America to capture the potential value that’s offered by sweeping changes in technologies and policies.

Green Power Control

Preparing the grid for large-scale renewables.

With large solar arrays and wind farms being proposed to connect to transmission and sub-transmission systems, are utility companies sufficiently prepared to handle the challenge of integrating these large intermittent resources? The industry now must decide whether transmission reliability factors — most notably dynamic voltage support and system frequency management — need to be resolved by renewable generators, or whether they should become a cost of doing business for transmission providers and reliability coordinators.

Hybrid Storage

Ultracapacitors and batteries work together to solve power quality problems.

Ultracapacitors and batteries work together to solve power quality problems.

Energy Storage: It's Not Just Load Leveling Anymore

ACCORDING TO ONE RECENT SURVEY, MORE THAN HALF THE U.S. population now lives in states with customer choice. Moreover, industry executives expect 20 to 50 percent of these customers to choose a new electricity supplier by year end. %n1%n

With changes expected in the way electricity is generated, delivered and sold, exerting pressure on prices, what does the future hold for energy storage technologies?

After all, restructuring efforts appear most active in the highest-cost states -- those with average electricity prices running above 7 cents per kilowatt-hour.

Distributed Generation: Implications for Restructuring the Electric Power Industry

Until a few years ago, the concept of distributed or modular generation was largely academic. Recent developments in the electric power industry, however, have brought this once esoteric subject to the attention of utility executives as well as state and federal policymakers. Centralized, large-scale plans to use modular generators and demand-side management (DSM) to displace utility investments in bulk-power resources and high-voltage transmission projects is unrealistic.